Working at a migration site for HawkWatch International can be challenging. Crews work six days a week for a small seasonal stipend that covers their basic costs while on site. Days can be long, and this time of year may begin with chipping ice off their drinking water, followed by long hours exposed to the wind and cold. They end their workday warming up next to a fire as they tally the day’s count and submit the data to HWI headquarters. They spend three month on a remote ridge, disconnected from family, friends, and the outside world.
Seasonal field work has become a right-of-passage in the competitive field of wildlife biology, and many do the job to gain experience before heading off to grad school, but many also do it because they couldn’t imagine spending the fall any other way. Truly these volunteers are dedicated to their work, and without them, collecting the 30-plus years of hawk migration and banding data from across our migration network would never have been possible. Their motivations for giving so much time and effort are noble and unselfish. Their drive comes not only from their strong environmental ethic, but also from the excitement of watching the massive movements of raptors across the vast landscapes of the American West, and the thrill of seeing these noble creatures up close. They enjoy the satisfaction that, through the data they collect each day, they are the finger on the ecological pulse of a continent. Some crew members give their time to HawkWatch year after year, working at sites across the network. Not in it for the money, the technicians work the count sites on a volunteer basis.
Funding support for HawkWatch International’s migration research comes from a variety of sources, including membership donations and private grants from corporations, foundations and government agencies. Unfortunately, funding streams that support these efforts are few and far between, despite the value of long-term, large scale ecological data to study a landscape facing pressures from climate change, natural resource extraction, and the expansion of human development.
This year, Black Diamond Equipment provided a valuable contribution to the migration network. The Salt Lake City-based company, which manufactures standard-defining climbing, skiing and outdoor equipment as well as high quality performance technical outerwear, donated dozens of items to help keep crew members warm and dry while they are on the ridge. Each returning migration crew member received a jacket or other piece of gear to make them more comfortable on the windy ridge tops where they live, count, and band raptors.
On behalf of all the migration site volunteers, HawkWatch International thanks Black Diamond for their generous contribution to our returning crew members.